Born yesterday.

In this journal, I try to focus on human nature and everyday life.  Lately, with so many crises happening so quickly in the world, I was reminded of this piece published on January 1, 1990 by Dallas Morning News columnist Ann Melvin.  Some of the references, now 21 years later, might sound a bit dated– you will notice that the word “internet” never appears, and the main bogey-man of the media was television.  At any rate, the piece is worth re-reading today, and I do hope Ms. Melvin doesn’t mind my printing a few excerpts here with full citation. 

…For as the summing up of the ’80s takes place, on what once was called the boob tube, we are inundated with the overriding images of bureaucratic venality, the desperation of the drug problem, the fouling of our environment, world hunger and the pervasive hopelessness of the AIDS epidemic.

“Has there ever been a time so hopeless for young people to grow up into?” asked a young woman of 22, poised on the brink of taking over the world, and looking down with trepidation, not eagerness.

Oh, my goodness.

Here is the voice of the born-yesterday crowd, weaned on the sour TV teat of limited expectations soothed by little else than the meager instant gratifications of their baser appetites.

Has there ever been a time?

Roast a duck over the smoky fire in a thatched hut of the dark ages where man fed his hunger with his fingers and his soul with minor superstitions; crouch in the bow of a small wooden ship and listen to the cold waves lap relentlessly outside as ignorant if intrepid sailors ply across a gray Atlantic in search of the cold forests of Plymouth. Ever a time? Hear the cries of young children sold into prostitution in the town called Constantinople even before it was called Istanbul, and the hoots of the owl that was not an owl stealing across the prairie at daybreak to make another frontier raid on the family of settlers grimly loading their flintlocks one last time.

Ever a time? When my mother was 22 the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. She had a year-old baby and a handsome young husband who was packing to join the army. Back then, they did not know Adolf Hitler would not win.

And when I was 6 years old, my mother would not take me to the movies or to swimming pools because I might catch polio and either die or live out my life in an iron lung. No one knew then that Jonas Salk would come along…

Yes, I guess despair has been around — and well attended by the faltering heart of man –more than we can ascribe in this small space. But it is a despair attended by indomitable hope.

And as we watch at the close of this decade, imperfect men march in masses across the face of the earth, wresting from dictators and oppressive regimes the right to establish their own imperfect democracies, winning the right to manage their own despair, it strikes me as strange that a generation of young Americans would be so disheartened by the voices of hollow despair that wrap around television’s main job of advertising.

I know there are serious people striving to make television news meaningful, but somehow the values of relevant news distress a generation whose depths of faith and philosophy seem no more solid than the images of light on an electronic screen.

What can we give them to shore up their courage for the ’90s?….

…All I have are three rules of life passed down from my grandmother to my daddy to me. Although it is homey advice, it was also favored by the likes of Winston Churchill, and I am pressed to pass it along until something better pops up. The rules are these, and you may take them or not in a spirit of well-wishing for a Happy As Possible New Year Under the Circumstances:

Never give up.

Never give up.

And, Never give up.

“A reason to despair? Only for the born-yesterday crowd.” THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Monday, January 1, 1990. p. 23A.


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